Sunday, February 19, 2006

Quick post post

Date: Feb. 18
Mileage: 104
February mileage: 354.0
Temperature upon departure: 32

Hello. I don't really have the time or coherence of mind to do a full race report by now, but I thought I could drop in a note for those who might be watching the Susitna 100 race results and are feeling a bit concerned that I checked in 13 miles from the finish at 5:45 a.m. and haven't finished yet (for the record, I came in at 9:54 a.m. I'm sure the Web site will update soon.)

I'm back and elated that I finished. I did manage to make most of my goals for the race - that is: survive, survive with all my digits intact, and finish the race. I was on pace to make it to the finish in 24 hours, but I wasen't paying attention and took an accidental 2-mile detour toward the end of the race that I had to backtrack - earning me an extra four miles but costing the 24-hour cutoff.

So I accomplished my goals. But in the fully-sunlit hindsight of my race, I'm feeling a little disappointment with my performance. This stems from something I've been saying all along - that, for me, the Susitna 100 was a psychological race. A real test of mind over body. And now I realize that my body did great. My mind, however, really dropped the ball.

I'll try to post in more depth tomorrow. But, basically, the race started out with ideal trail conditions. I was pushing easy, enjoying the sunshine reflecting across the frozen boreal bogs. I was halfway through the race in eight hours, feeling strong, certain I was on pace for an 18-hour race. I was stoked. And that's where I let my guard down.

Right after sunset, just as I was checking out of the 53-mile checkpoint, a heavy rain started coming down. The warm, wet downpour, compounded by temps in the 34-37 degree range and daylong sun quickly reduced the trail to soft sugar. Within an hour I was soaked to the core, fighting the pounding headwind out on the exposed surface of the Yetna River and plunging through a trail that had the consistency of wet sugar. I could have just dealt with the fact that movement was going to be slower. I could have stopped and put on a change to dry clothing. But I dwelt on the sudden misfortune and I let it get to me. I pushed through most of Dismal Swamp because it was truly unrideable for someone with my type of bike. But the time I returned to the 25-mile checkpoint, there was two or three new inches of wet snow accumulated on the ground, and it was coming down quick. I think that was the point I gave into my suffering. I was having such a hard time pedaling that I decided I was going to walk the rest of it. All said, I probably walked 25 of the last 40 miles. Of course, now I'm asking myself a lot of questions about that decision - was it really necessary? Did I really need to take it at that level? Couldn't I have pushed a little harder, despite my lack of perfect equipment or experience?

The psychology of racing is interesting. Now, looking back on it, I see that my body wasen't hurting. My body felt strong. But everything about my last 40 miles was so frustrating, frustrating - all because conditions started out so well, and deteriorated so suddenly. Still, I am really happy to have finished - and even the really tough stuff about the experience just make me want to go out next year and try again as a season veteran. I didn't mean to be such a downer in this post. But, these are my first post-race, pre-sleep thoughts. More tomorrow. Pictures too.